Lightenings: My Days Are Gone Like A Shadow

A collaborative project featuring Dead Rat Orchestra, Sons of Joy and Extreme Noise Terror members. Lightenings: My Days Are Gone Like Shadow – debut LP on limited lathe cut vinyl and digital download.

“An exhilarating, vivid album, full of depth, emotion and rich texture” – Wyrd Daze

Release Date 1st February 2023
Album presale on Bandcamp 10am Friday 11th November 2022.
Label: Hypostatic Union

A pagan, a priest and a Muslim walk into Britain’s 15th most haunted pub and ask, “Does anyone have a microphone, please?”

Four days later, these three musicians and friends return to their homes with the album My Days Are Gone Like a Shadow recorded: a heady mix of experimental folk, disintegrating beats, soaring fiddles, whispers and chants, squalling guitars, and ethereal pipe organ.

Based in Cairo, Egypt and Colchester Essex, LIGHTENINGS is Stafford Glover (Enclosed & Silent Order, Extreme Noise Terror), Daniel Merrill (Nujumi, Dead Rat Orchestra, Sons of Joy) and the Rev’d Matthew Simpkins (Rev Simpkins, Sons of Joy). Having travelled a collective 3,500 miles to arrive at Shebbear, the band discovered that they had forgotten their microphones. Installing themselves in the local haunted pub, the Devil Stone Inn, LIGHTENINGS managed to borrow microphones form the landlady and to convince the local vicar to let them record his church organ.

LIGHTENINGS come together once a year to create an album in a location specifically for its local lore, which is drawn upon in the resulting recording. In 2022 they arrived in Shebbear, Devon, home of the Devil Stone. Legend has it that the stone marks the resting place of the Devil after he was cast out of heaven by the archangel Michael, to whom the parish church is dedicated. Michael then trapped him beneath the ground with a stone.  The stone, which weighs a tonne, does not match any local geology. At 8pm on 5th November each year, the church bells are rung discordantly and the stone is turned by six locals to ‘keep the devil down’.

The band arrived in Shebbear dealing with their own devils – with one member learning the previous week that his cancer had returned, and the others coping with bereavements. The resulting music is full of the joy of dear friends reunited and sharing creativity, as well as themes of mortality, hope and life.

‘Pelican’ builds from psalm chants and whispers accompanied by rain and violin into heavenly organ drones and clockwork violin pizzicato.

In ‘Turn the Stone’ thunderous fuzz basslines drive swirling beats, plainchant and yells, punctuated by spiky and squalling guitar.

On ‘Blood Sun’ violin and viola interweave with whistles and vocal harmonies before building intensity above a disorienting broken beat offset against relentless bass line.

‘Evensong’ is simple incantation of the Evening Collect from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer accompanied by a disintegrating string quartet and washes of glitching bass and synth noise

‘Bellows’ is a monster constructed from all the sounds a church organ shouldn’t make. It is a living breathing thing created by Dan clambering around and inside an organ loft while Matthew put it through its paces. My Days are Gone Like a Shadow is available as a lathe-cut or download on Hypostatic Union.

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 *** Early Haunts

Best experienced in the PDF zine

Early Haunts: an interview with T.W. Burgess

Four early and inspirational ghost stories, mostly forgotten in the depths of literary history, are brought together for the first time in one graphic novel adaptation. These stories include:

The Death Bride – An Italian Gothic Horror and a primary literary influence to Mary Shelley, writer of FRANKENSTEIN.

The Wild Huntsman – A German poem which acted as a major inspiration to Washington Irving, writer of SLEEPY HOLLOW.

The Tale from Dish Mansion – a Japanese ghost tale which inspired Sadako in Koji Suzuki’s THE RING

The House in Athens – The first appearance of a ‘chained apparition’, an inspiration to Charles Dickens for Marley’s Ghost from A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Early Haunts Kickstarter

T.W. Burgess is a writer based in Canterbury, Kent. Specialising in horror, ghost stories and folklore. Burgess’s work has been featured in publications such as Rue Morgue, Starburst Magazine and the Fortean Times. He is also the winner of Rue Morgue’s best limited comic series graphic novel award. He currently resides in a 16th century house haunted by an eternally hungry black cat. 

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What inspired you to unearth the forgotten tales featured in Early Haunts?

So, I’ve been fascinated by ghost stories ever since I was small. From gorging M.R. James’s TV adaptations to spending hours in bookshops looking for books with supernatural photos. In particular I’d always been fascinated with the first haunted house story The House in Athens and the influence that ghost had over so many of our archetypal spectres in film, books and TV. From just some initial research I’d been amazed at how far reaching these influences were and it made me want to delve deeper with some of my other favourite supernatural tales. The four tales in the book vary widely both in location and length. For that reason alone it seemed an interesting concept to bring them together and reveal how they came to be.

What challenges did you face in adapting these stories to a graphic medium?

Each of these ghost stories have come from very unwieldy texts – from pre-1700s Japanese to ancient Greek – so it was a real challenge to correctly translate and ensure that the stories matched up to the original source material.

I’ve been exceptionally fortunate to work with some incredible translators. Anne Doering who helpe translate The Wild Huntsman did a great job at dissecting the story, uncovering old German words and the colour schemes used for the characters. Elements like that were left out of Walter Scott’s adaptation of Gottfried August Bürger’s original poem of The Wild Huntsman and I felt it was important to bring them back.

Also, it was important to break down these stories into a legible format. The Death Bride is the longest of the tales but still a fraction of the huge original story. That narrative is almost ‘Inception-like’ with a ‘tale within a tale’ setting which can be quite confusing to read. It was important to keep it as simple as possible so the reader could keep a handle on what was going on.

Tell us about the book’s artists and what their vision brought to each story.

The artists I’ve worked with have all done an incredible job at visualising these stories and creating a specific atmosphere and tone relevant to each location. Mike O’Brien is an amazing talent whose work has been featured in exhibitions and magazines and his style has really added a raw, creepy feel to Pliny’s tale.

Readers might well know Brian Coldrick from his astounding work in his Behind You animated gifs and book out on IDW. We’ve worked together previously and his detailed style was absolutely spot on for The Wild Huntsman. There’s a depth and autumnal tone to his piece which gives it a real sense of the uncanny. 

David Romero I’ve also worked with previously on my Ghoster project. As an artist who specialises in horror he has a great eye for unsettling imagery. But he’s really held back with the Death Bride, allowing the horror to slowly grow within some truly beautiful panel work. Which makes those reveals all the more impactful.

Lastly, Bri Neumann is an artist who I’ve long admired and I was lucky enough to work with her with my book Nyctophobias. Her style has a real manga feel to it and it absolutely perfectly fitted The Tale of Dish Mansion, alongside that of colourist Bryan Valenza, whose tones and colour palette perfectly set the tone to the piece.

Early Haunts: The House in Athens — illustrated by Mike O’Brien

Were there any other influential tales you considered for this collection?

Absolutely, there’s definitely potential for an Early Haunts 2 or even possibly further. I don’t want to reveal any in particular but there’s a host of tales from England, Europe and even further afield which have helped pave the way for our modern horror.

What draws you to telling tales of the eerie and horrific?

I’m a keen advocate of M.R. James’s line that the true aim of a ghost story is to inspire “a pleasing terror in the reader”. I truly believe that’s the case. Pure schlock horror where gore and blood is thrown around without rhyme or reason never interests me. I think a good ghost story where the scares are skilfully built and the terror really hits, truly allow us to explore what pushes our buttons and what sends chills up our spines, taking us back to some of our most primal and earliest fears. We can allow ourselves to be scared but with the distance of a page between us and the horror, leaving us with a renewed sense of safety and comfort. Equally, I think stories such as that are especially important right now where these scares are so fantastical and removed from the daily horrors we’re all enduring.

What frightened you as a child?

I remember being equally terrified and fascinated by classic supposed ‘ghost photographs’ in a range of books as a child. All the stereotypical ones which now seem so iconic such as the boy with the glowing eyes in the Amityville house or the Spectre of Newby Church with it’s tattered cloth face. I’d spend hours poring over them and supernatural programs which had chilling clips of ‘supposed’ encounters with ghosts. They always fascinated but haunted my sleep.

But undoubtedly Mr Pipes in Ghostwatch utterly traumatised me. The directing by Lesley Manning was completely before its time and you can see how that directing style later inspired supernatural films such as Blair Witch. I remember not being able to sleep for weeks afterwards.

Can you remember the first horror film you watched?

I’m pretty sure Jaws must have been one of the earliest I watched, probably down to me hounding my Dad to rent it from the video shop. I remember being surprised the shark wasn’t as big as the one on the cover, but it left me with such a feeling of dread (especially the Kinter attack).

That whole premise of showing very little and then building up to a scare is something I’ve always tried to emulate in all my graphic novels ever since. I think it’s a good rule of thumb for horror. If you’ve got a good horror character then allow the tension to build before showing everything.

Have you ever seen a ghost or experienced any other kind of supernatural phenomenon?

Nothing very exciting. The only incident that’s remotely ghostly was when I used to work for a nightclub as head of design and print. I later found out the nightclub had been built on the site of a large medieval church. There was always building work going on and I remember they’d knocked through the flats upstairs to allow it to be turned into a cocktail bar.

One evening I’d stayed late to print off posters for upcoming events and whilst I was doing some designing the handle of the interconnecting door between my office and the old flat clearly shook as if someone was trying it. I’d waited a moment expecting a builder to come in or knock as it was often locked. But when no one did I got up to have a look. Low and behold there was just a dark empty flat beyond the door, and a very empty flat. I walked round the building but there was no one else there. Evidently I got my stuff and left sharpish.

There were loads of rumours about the place but I’m told there was an old part of a crypt somewhere underneath the dancefloor.

Early Haunts: The Wild Huntsman — illustrated by Brian Coldrick 

Will you share with us one of your most interesting nightmares?

I had one last year actually after watching Inside No.9 which really stayed with me. I’d been watching a load of weird, retro kids TV on youtube – especially ‘Jigsaw’ with ‘Mr Noseybonk’ an absolute horror from my childhood I’ve long been fascinated by. I had an insane dream about an episode of Inside No.9 in which a character watches episodes of Jigsaw and somehow starts transforming into a ‘Bonk’ and being lured to the sewers where a cult of other viewers have transformed into hideous pale faced ‘Bonks’. It was pretty horrific. Tweeted the whole thing – I’m glad it doesn’t exist.

What would you say are your most influential books, comics, and films?

For me graphic novels and comics such as Alan Moore’s From Hell and James O’Barr’s The Crow really show how effective horror can be within the comic medium. I’m a huge fan especially of Horror manga artist and writer Junji Ito and his seminal books Uzumaki and Gyo remain for me some of the most terrifying work to date. Also I love supernatural folklore within graphic novels such as Becky Cloonan’s By chance or Providence and Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods both of which do a wonderful job at crafting an unsettling read matched with gorgeous artwork.

In terms of novels I love the work of Philip Pullman and the His Dark Materials trilogy, which for me are at the forefront of my favourite books. His world building and lore is unparalleled.  For traditional ghost stories I adore Sheridan Le Fanu and E F Benson but above everyone else it has to be M.R. James. His ghost stories have an unidentifiable element of pure malevolence wrapped up in truly believable supernatural lore and academia which set them apart. He was born just a few villages away from where I live and with local landmarks such as Rochester Cathedral appearing in his work I always felt a special resonance with his stories.

For films, I love the work of Guillermo Del Toro, in particular Pan’s Labrynth and The Devils Backbone, there’s always such a high level of detail in his work. But for supernatural horror it’s so hard to pinpoint it to just a few. I love Japanese horror films such as Ring and The Grudge but closer to home it has to be the original Woman in Black and the Christmas adaptations of M.R. James, in particular A Warning to the Curious. It’s utter nightmare fuel.

Much of your writing is rooted in obscure history and folklore – why do you think it is that we are seeing such a resurgence of interest in these areas?

I think in an era of digital platforms where so many people seem to live their lives online, people are looking for respite. Folklore often offers a comfort and a move back to ancient traditions which arguably come with a sense of comfort and community. It’s also something that worldwide we can share with each other, with folklore weaving its way through every culture, often with so many similarities between stories. I think to modern audiences they offer a welcome insight into how our ancestors may have lived their lives and offer a fascinating taste of what came before us.

To what extent does a sense of place affect your writing?

A huge amount. I think it’s really important as a writer to get out and experience as many locations as possible. Admittedly, this year  has been harder than usual for that, given the current situation with Covid. But I find usually just getting out to a different location can really aid inspiration.

We’re lucky in the UK as there’s layers upon layers of history around us and the ground is saturated in folklore and tradition (usually a bloody one). For me it might just be visiting a town for the first time and hearing word of a local ghost story or tradition which can start off a whole new ghost story concept.

Early Haunts: The Death Bride — illustrated by David Romero

Tell us about your Ghoster world…

Ghoster is a huge project that’s long been in development. The story follows five families who have defended the UK from Malevolents (evil ghosts) since Elizabethan times through the use of dark alchemy loosely inspired by the tale of Lord Lyttleton and Berkeley Square. I’d been working on Ghoster on and off for years until releasing Malevolents, which acts as a prequel to the first book. Myself and filmmaker Toby Meakins have both been working on the project for several years now, initially releasing a proof of concept short back in 2016 and then last Halloween we released an entire graphic novel for free online.

Since then, Ghoster has picked up a huge amount of attention and we’re currently in the process of working on the follow up story with an incredibly talented artist. There’s a phenomenal amount of work we’ve put into the project (for instance we’ve a 100 page history book of how the factions have evolved, going all the way back to the Iron Age!).

It’s a huge world and we’re really looking forward to telling the next story. I can reveal though we’ll have something Ghoster related coming out just in time for Christmas.

The first book can still be purchased
online at Amazon or downloaded for free on Kindle direct

Early Haunts: The Tale from Dish Mansion —
illustrated by Bri Neumann, coloured by Bryan Valenza

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 ** : Maria Strutz

Best experienced in the PDF zine

Of Stones and Waves

I love being by the sea. I don’t live by the sea nor did I grow up by the sea but I feel at home by the sea.

I love the wind blowing through my being, the smell of salt and seaweed. I love picking up pebbles and find their shapes and markings grounding, comforting and at times exhilarating and hugely inspiring.

I’ve been known to go into a stone trance…

A few years ago I found a fossilized sea urchin, which had very distinctive markings on one side. I soon came to think of this shape as being a ‘sea shaman’, anthropomorphic, neither fully human nor animal, gender fluid, belonging to the sea and the shore, communing with the elements, the marine wildlife and plants.

And yes, I am aware of the controversial use of the term ‘shaman’, and still, the term stuck. This stone started me off on an ongoing series of sketches, paintings and prints.

Here is a painting in a sketchbook looking at both sides of the fossil. 

Seashaman riding a whale

Seashaman surfing, surrounded by sea mammals

One night I had a dream. Of finding another stone, smooth, round, a flint pebble, nearly black, with stark white markings. The stone showed the seashaman figure, surfing, followed by an enormous wave, threatening to engulf them but at the same time I knew that they were able to ride the wave, and were in no danger. Able to ride it out.

This resulted in a series of prints, in which I tried to capture this dream image.

And endless sketches of waves

I started creating sculptures that I would take to the sea and photographed them in a way where their size was unclear in the context of the background. Sculptures that became part of the shore and sea landscape, melding with stones. I would take most of them home again, yet some I would offer to the sea

I researched selkie stories, seal-folk that can take on human shape when they slip out of their sealskin. If somebody finds their skin the selkie no longer is able to change back into their seal shape but have to stay land-bound until they regain their true skin. These stories hardly ever have happy endings.

Here I created a seal-woman with her seal child/pup

And a seal head on the shore

I took one of my owl women to the sea. I photograph her in all sorts of environments, wherever I go, so too at the sea

Recently I started creating otter linoprints.

This is my latest otter linocut, and currently my favourite. The group made me think of three otter-Nornes, contemplating the fate of seafarers and landlocked folk alike. Note the little sailboat on the left…

[Note: the otter group was inspired by a photograph by Brydon Thomason]

And here are two otters, diving, delving through the water.  I am fascinated by the playfulness and underwater acrobatics of otters, their agility and ability to lithely twist and twirl.

The otters above are delving amongst some kelp plants. I find kelp incredibly beautiful in their own way, undulating in the currents. I fell in love with kelp in a big way watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, ‘The Green Seas’.

There is a correlation between sea otters, kelp forests and sea urchins, with sea otters feeding on sea urchins, which are able to destroy kelp on a massive scale when left unchecked; healthy kelp forests in turn contribute to absorbing vast amounts of carbon for photosynthesis  and helping global environmental health.

I love the idea of sea otters being the guardians of kelp forests.

Below is a polystyrene print of an otter diving for sea urchins surrounded by kelp plants and a jellyfish. I am not sure whether jellyfish co-exist with otters, sea urchins and kelp in the same time-space continuum but I think they work together very nicely on a visual level. Artistic license and all that…

Otters also wrap themselves (and their young) in strands of kelp rooted in the ocean floor, anchoring themselves so they won’t drift away on the ocean current.

Years ago I came across a photograph of a group of kelp plants, photographed from below, their stems and leaves growing and reaching upwards, suffused with sunlight, floating through the water surface. Their floating shapes somehow reminded me of the Nike of Samothraki, which has been displayed in the Louvre in Paris since 1884 (with ongoing petitions to have her returned to Samothraki); she is one of my favourite sculptures ever. If you don’t know her, do look her up…

I created various versions of a Kelp Nike of Samothraki. See one of them below. I might return to this subject matter again another time.

So… the sea, the element of water, marine creatures and plants; this is one ongoing thread in my creative work. I find I do not work in a linear way, I do not do ‘projects’ that I follow through to a specific end. I have themes that I dip into, immerse myself and then come back to, sometimes after many years.

I could create threads similar to the sea-inspired one above on many subjects I have been pursuing. Owls and owlwomen. Bears. Goddesses. Ganesha, tantric deities, yantras. Not to forget Hookland (and I have been known to drop everything else for a while when a quote by Hookland’s C.L. Nolan or Emily Banting captures my imagination).

Labyrinths would be another thread…

The image below shows the first labyrinth I ever built, made up of stones gathered on the beach. No doubt it was swept away by the next tide. At times I wonder whether the blueprint remains and whether sea creatures swim and wander this labyrinth at high tide

And possibly Owlwoman is there, too

I’ll conclude with an image of the last labyrinth I built, which was on the same beach as my first labyrinth. And: this also is the location where I found the fossilized sea urchin that started the journey outlined above in the first place.

About me…

I have a background in sculpture (I studied Sculpture in the 80s in Germany) and Theatre Design (Central St. Martins) but did not take well to formal art education. I am happiest when I am able to be creative in a playful and experimental state without any fixed ideas or expectations of outcome.

At the core of my art is a strong connection to nature; the spirits of animals and plants, landscape, stones, the sea and the elements. My art is about pattern recognition, weaving dreams, stories and images into a whole.

I recently launched an online store:

Have a looksee if you like. Browse, enjoy! 

You can also see a selection of my work on my website, which I haven’t updated for a while, so it has a bit of an archival feel

I sometimes post new prints or work in progress on Twitter as @mariastrutz

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 * Textural Hominini Cognition

A sonic painting by Eph

1 Keith Seatman : The Hang Bird
2 Alberto : New Life
3 The Soulless Party : Blackberry Ghost
4 Adderall Canyonly : The Unburdened Present
5 Stephen Prince : I Have Brought A Myriad Fractures
And Found Some Form Of Peace (1879)
6 A.M. Boys : And Yet
8 Drew Mulholland : NESS 11 – Master V1 (16-44100)
9 Animals against Humans : Bewitchers
10 Wizards Tell Lies : Ash Falls
11 Drew Mulholland : NESS 5 – Master V1 (16-44100)
12 Kemper Norton : trvnce rd
13 Syrenomelia : A Rose Shattered

Big thanks to Castles in Space, Alrealon Musique, A Year in the Country, and to all the wonderful artists and their truly extraordinary music!

Support the artists:

Castles In Space
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Alrealon Musique
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A Year In The Country
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Keith Seatman
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The Soulless Party
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Adderall Canyonly
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Drew Mulholland
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Animals against Humans

Wizards Tell Lies
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Kemper Norton
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